Current memory technologies including flash memory, DRAM and SRAM are facing technology limits to their continued improvement. Adding new materials to enhance gate oxide performance and reliability can only add to circuit costs. As a result there are intense efforts to develop new memory technologies. Most of these new technologies are non-volatile memories and can be used for long-term storage or to provide a memory that does not lose information when power is not applied to the electronics.
The memories addressed in this report include PRAM, RRAM, FRAM, MRAM, STT MRAM and a variety of less mainstream technologies such as carbon nanotubes. Based upon the level of current development and the characteristics of these technologies, resistive RAM (RRAM) appears to be a potential replacement for flash memory. However, flash memory has several generations of technologies that could be implemented before a replacement is required. Thus this transition will not fully occur until the next decade. Recently SanDisk and HP (inventor of the memristor RRAM) created a strategic alliance to develop next generation RRAM technology. In addition, Sony introduced a resistive memory technology in 2014.
Micron and Intel’s introduction of 3D XPoint non-volatile memory technology that has high endurance, performance much better than NAND, although somewhat slower than DRAM, and higher density than DRAM; could impact the need for DRAM for high performance in-memory processing and L3 caching applications. The companies intent to introduce NVMe SSDs with this technology in 2016 with memory channel DIMM’s introduced in 2017 to accompany a new enterprise server chip family. The company claims that this is a resistive memory technology but not based upon filament formation. Many people speculate that this is a form of phase change memory.
Magnetic RAM (MRAM) and spin tunnel torque RAM (STT MRAM) will start to replace SRAM and DRAM within the next few years and probably before RRAM replaces flash memory. The rate of development in STT MRAM and MRAM capabilities will result in lower prices, and the attractiveness of replacing volatile memory with high speed and high endurance non-volatile memory make these technologies very competitive.